The politics of regulation

Instructor Ralph Hughes

Citizens on All Political Sides are Distressed by Corruption in Washington

By Ralph Hughes
During the campaign, Donald Trump spoke about corruption in Washington. When the new administration took power in 2017, Steve Bannon promised Trump’s followers that he would “dismantle the administrative state,” promising to replace it with a system that empowers ordinary people over coastal elites and international institutions. [1] In hindsight, he overlooked a far more obvious problem, and thereby failed to provide mechanisms that would protect us “ordinary people” from the representatives we elect.
At a recent conference for 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials, the administration’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, described the rules he used for access when he was Republican lawmaker from South Carolina “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”[2]
Moreover, Malvaney’s priorities for special interest donors seemingly extends into his additional work as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  Since taking control last November, Mulvaney has frozen all new investigations and scaled back efforts to go after payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies that prey on the vulnerable consumers.  The fact that payday lenders contributed nearly $63,000 to Mulvaney’s campaigns when he served as a South Carolinian congressman has led many to call foul, including one co-founder of the Tea Party movement.  [3] To his credit, Mulvaney also stated that “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception,” but given his other admissions, one must wonder how hard he would have been listening.
Whereas Americans were understandably disgusted with the political elite, the root cause of the problem still lies unaddressed, even with the new administration’s radically unconventional style.  Instead of providing moderation and oversight, Congress only looks on fecklessly as Trump’s staff steadily undermines the judicial branch by appointing scores of unqualified Federal judges [4], as the president himself continues profiting from barely hidden violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.   The quality of government seems to be in free-fall.  To paraphrase the late Robin Williams, our public servants appear intent upon violating the standards of behavior faster than they can lower them.
As Federal spending spirals upwards into $1T annual deficits, and China and Russia link arms [5], Bannon’s “ordinary people” must be wondering whether there will be a country left to transfer to the next administration, much less to bestow upon the unlucky generations soon to follow us.  Yes, we have seen some activism among the high school students in Florida, but where is the outrage among the Millennials who are now entering their 20s?  They have a tremendous stake to lose should the government become so hobbled and corrupt that it cannot provide any semblance of justice, regulation, planning, or policy execution.
Because understanding a problem is the first step towards effective action, I have come to Colorado Free University to offer a two-hour seminar on perceiving and correcting the current malaise in government. We look at the sea change in the economy that took place during the 1970s, compare it with the advent and outcome of the past century’s Gilded Age—which rivaled our times in terms of political corruption—and then take a look at the many good idea for reform that have been promoted for troubles today.
Crucially, we finish the session by looking at several public-interest groups that already working to implement these reforms to combat corruption in Washington, so that attendees can decide what to do next to restore health to our Republic. For example, we consider the American Anti-Corruption Campaign, which—in only in its third year—has already secured anti-corruption resolutions in 75 locations including the state of South Dakota.

Ralph Hughes is not currently offering his class at CFU, but we hope you find the information interesting.  Please visit to find current courses.
[1] “Bannon vows a daily fight for ‘deconstruction of the administrative state’”, Washington Post, 23-Feb-17
[2] “Mulvaney, Watchdog Bureau’s Leader, Advises Bankers on Ways to Curtail Agency”, NY Times, 24-Apr-18
[3] “I Joined the Tea Party to Drain the Swamp. Trump Isn’t Helping.” Mark Meckler, 27-Apr-18